June 2012

6/27 Extra bases

* Jeff Samardzija is smart enough to know when he doesn’t have good command of his pitches but on Wednesday, the Cubs pitcher couldn’t make the adjustment fast enough. Samardzija gave up nine runs over 4 1/3 innings in the Cubs’ 17-1 loss to the Mets. It was the most lopsided loss since they dropped an 18-1 game to the Brewers on Aug. 2, 2010. Samardzija (5-7) is now 0-4 with a 12.27 ERA in his last four games, and has not won since May 29.

“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t concern,” Dale Sveum said. “The execution of pitches hasn’t been good for four or five starts now. It could be confidence, it could be mechanical, it could be all of the above. The magic question is, which one is it? There’s a number of things sometimes — is it the concentration level, trusting your stuff? When he gets in trouble, he doesn’t get strike one either. That’s a big thing. Today, we didn’t get strike one too often.”

Samardzija wasn’t pleased, and not just because of his own won-loss record. The Cubs had a chance to sweep the Mets.

“I want to win, especially after winning the first two games and playing how we played as a team,” he said. “We played great baseball and our offense put up the runs we needed to put up and our pitchers did great. I’m not concerned as a whole, I’m just upset as a competitor and a teammate. … Letting them down isn’t what I’m about and it doesn’t sit well with me. As a whole, you have to look at the big picture. There are things you need to learn and there’s only one way to learn sometimes and that’s to get kicked in the rear a little bit.”

* Starlin Castro leads all NL shortstops with 93 hits and a .301 batting average.

* The Cubs are 4-17 against left-handed starters.

* Rizzo watch: Anthony Rizzo was 1-for-4 with a double off Jonathon Niese. He’s now batting .375.

“He had some good swings today and was on every pitch and shortened up and hit a double off the wall,” Sveum said. “He’s doing fine. He hasn’t done anything that we didn’t expect so far. He’s had a quality at-bat every at-bat besides the last one.”

The last at-bat came with a runner on in the eighth. At that point, the Cubs needed more than two touchdowns to win.

— Carrie Muskat 

6/27 Minor League report

Frankie De La Cruz gave up three runs on five hits over five innings in Iowa’s 3-1 loss to Round Rock on Tuesday. Josh Vitters did extend his hitting streak to a season-high nine games with a single in the first.

Michael Burgess hit two home runs, and Michael Brenly and Jae-Hoon Ha hit one apiece in Tennessee’s 11-6 win over Birmingham. Nicholas Struck got the win, giving up four runs on four hits and four walks over six innings. Burgess reached base four times, going 3-for-3 and drawing a walk. Brenly had three hits and two RBIs. Ha, who will play in the All-Star Futures Game, had two hits and three RBIs.

P.J. Francescon gave up two runs on seven hits over six innings in Daytona’s 4-3 loss to St. Lucie. Rebel Ridling and John Andreoli each had two hits.

Starling Peralta gave up two runs on eight hits over seven innings in Peoria’s 7-2 over Clinton. Dustin Geiger and Paul Hoilman each had two hits.

James Pugliese gave up two runs on three hits over 4 2/3 innings in Boise’s 3-1 loss to Spokane. Roderick Shoulders drove in the Hawks only run.

Bijan Rademacher homered in Mesa’s 9-4 loss to the Dodgers.

— Carrie Muskat

6/27 Day 2 for Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo will stay in the No. 3 spot in the Cubs lineup as far as Dale Sveum is concerned.

“You want to get some stability in this lineup,” Sveum said Wednesday. “You call people up who are going to be here a long time, you just want to leave them alone. [Starlin] Castro and [Rizzo], we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to keep moving things around because then you can’t protect this guy or that guy, and it snowballs into another problem. We’re commited to this lineup and lefties will be what they are. Those two guys will be in the same spot from now on.”

Castro has batted .311 in 24 games in the No. 2 spot and .296 in 50 games in the No. 3 spot this season.

Rizzo, 22, was able to get his pregame work done without being followed by cameras on Wednesday, and said he didn’t think it would be difficult to maintain his routine.

“It’s just about getting comfortable now,” he said. “It’s just going day by day and working my tail off.”

What about wearing No. 44? That was the number the Cubs assigned him in Spring Training. He wore No. 27 with the Padres.

“Forty-four, they gave it to me in Spring Training, and it grew on me,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat

6/27 Wells DFA’d, Dolis up & Soler could be coming

Randy Wells was designated for assignment on Wednesday, and Rafael Dolis recalled from Triple-A Iowa. The move opens a spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, which could mean the team is close to signing Jorge Soler. There is a July 2 deadline — which is Tuesday — to complete the deal before new restrictions kick in regarding international signings.

—  Carrie Muskat

6/27 Looking ahead

After an off day Thursday, the Cubs play host to the Astros at Wrigley Field. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: LHP Paul Maholm (4-6, 5.38) vs. RHP Bud Norris (5-4, 4.81)

Saturday: RHP Matt Garza (3-6, 4.06) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (6-7, 4.83)

Sunday: LHP Travis Wood (2-3, 3.54) vs. LHP Wandy Rodriguez (6-5, 3.52)

— Carrie Muskat


6/27 Cubs lineup

After going 2-for-4 in his Cubs debut on Tuesday night, Anthony Rizzo will be back in the lineup on Wednesday in the series finale against the Mets. The Cubs already have won the series, taking two of three so far. They’ve now won five straight series against the Mets since 2008. Jeff Samardzija gets the start. He’s 3-2 with a 2.36 ERA at home compared to 2-4 with a 6.37 ERA on the road. The Cubs did beat lefty Johan Santana on Monday; they face another lefty, Jonathon Niese, on Wednesday. They’re 4-16 vs. left-handed starters this year, and batting .216 against southpaw pitchers. Here’s the lineup:

Mather CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Baker RF

Soto C

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Samardzija P

— Carrie Muskat

6/26 Lineups

Anthony Rizzo batted third on Tuesday in his Cubs debut game, but he could move around. At least that’s what GM Jed Hoyer said. Dale Sveum seems to have other ideas. Sveum came up with Tuesday’s combo early.

“About 6 o’clock in the morning today,” Sveum said. “There were all kinds of lineups. We just decided that was the best one. He is what he is, he’s a third or fourth hitter.”

Rizzo’s arrival means Bryan LaHair moves to right field, although he will likely be lifted in late innings for better defense.

— Carrie Muskat


6/26 Minor League report

Brooks Raley gave up one run on five hits over seven innings in Iowa’s 2-1 win over Round Rock. Josh Vitters hit his 12th home run, extending his hitting streak to eight games. He has five homers and 14 RBIs in June. Rafael Dolis pitched the ninth for his third save.

Trey McNutt gave up one run on two hits over two innings in Tennessee’s 11-3 loss to Jacksonville in the makeup of a suspended game. Jae-Hoon Ha, who will play in the All-Star Futures Game, had two hits, as did Junior Lake. In the second game, Dallas Beeler gave up one run on three hits over 3 1/3 innings in Tennessee’s 10-3 loss.

Matt Loosen gave up three runs on two hits and two walks over six innings in Daytona’s 7-3 win over St. Lucie. He struck out seven. Arismendy Alcantara hit his fourth homer. In the second game, Kyler Burke gave up three runs on five hits over five innings in a 4-3, 12-inning win. Dustin Harrington delivered a RBI double in the 12th for the game winner.

Zach Cates gave up one run on five hits over 4 2/3 innings in Peoria’s 2-1 win over Clinton. Wes Darvill and Yasiel Balaguert each had two hits.

Jose Arias gave up one run on three hits over five innings in Boise’s 4-1 loss to Spokane. Gioskar Amaya had two hits and scored a run.

Mesa scored four runs in the seventh to post a 6-4 win over the Indians. Trey Martin, Tim Saunders and Jacob Rogers each had two hits.

— Carrie Muskat

6/26 Cubs lineup: Rizzo batting 3rd

Anthony Rizzo will make his Cubs debut Tuesday night, batting third against the Mets. Rizzo is the 10th rookie to play for the Cubs this season. The others: Adrian Cardenas, Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger, Blake Lalli, Jairo Asencio, Lendy Castillo, Rafael Dolis, Scott Maine and Blake Parker.  Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

LaHair RF

Valbuena 3B

Barney 2B

Clevenger C

Wells P

— Carrie Muskat

6/25 Numbers game

Joe Mather switched from No. 16 to No. 21 on Monday, and christened the switch with a home run in the Cubs’ 6-1 win over the Mets. Why the change?

“I had it in high school,” Mather said. “It’s always been a favorite number of mine. I always see the highlight of Roberto Clemente running around and I see the 21 on his back and I always liked that and always wanted myself to look like that. I always liked the number for that reason.”

Clubhouse manager Tom Hellmann approved of the switch. It looked even better with two outs in the Chicago fourth when Geovany Soto walked and Mather followed with his fourth home run, hitting a 1-1 pitch from Johan Santana into the left field bleachers.

“It was a good way to break it in, that’s for sure,” Mather said.

“He got the perfect trajectory,” Dale Sveum said of Mather, who hit the ball into the wind. “You put a little more height on it and the wind would knock it down.”

— Carrie Muskat